Opinions on other Charters????

So last year was my first RAGBRAI and I used Pork Belly Ventures (brought my own tent). PBV was great and I had no issues with them at all. Was wondering what kind of crowd, people, etc the other charters had? What your experience, good and bad, was with some of the other charters available? I kind of got the impression most people in PBV didn’t go into the downtown area to see the bands at night or stayed up past 9. Maybe I’m wrong?

23 Replies

Barin Beard, January 29, 2018 at 7:19 pm

First RAGBRAI last year and used Brancel. No complaints! I will use them again.


BillSpriggs, January 29, 2018 at 7:34 pm

I’ve used PBV for four years, I use the tent service, getting in to camp with my bags in my tent is the only way to go. Level of service is outstanding. You are correct, it seems to be lights out at 9:00.I’ll use PBV again.


ESchiers, January 29, 2018 at 8:24 pm

PBV is not everyone`s cup of tea, but they are the best when it comes to the offerings. I’ve been on other charters and found it exhausting to find dinner, find showers, find drinkable cold water, sometimes the charter themselves. Not enough of everything (coffee in the morning, beer after the ride, etc.) The other charters tend to be smaller groups-so, hopefully everyone gets along, otherwise it’s a long week.


Mike Howe, January 29, 2018 at 9:04 pm

Yes, i agree. Their service is outstanding. I found myself not going downtown at night out of fear of possibly disturbing people coming back into the pbv camp. Not that i was going out and getting trashed or anything. Ill probably use pbv again just because of what they offer. Was curious to what the experiences of some of the other charters where.


Bill Little, January 29, 2018 at 9:32 pm

If you have the stamina, you can easily go down town too. 11 years with PBV – great people. There have been years that I was down town every night. Use my own tent and always try to be on the edge so not to disturb people


mootsman, January 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

I used PBV & the tent service. It seemed pretty easy to get back into camp without creating much noise. Just remember where your tent is so you don’t go into the wrong one. And have a small pocket light to help avoid tripping on anything. PBV camp is difficult to leave as they make it so great. Meals, live music & beer being included makes it hard to walk away from.

When I was on a team we had people getting in very late but they never woke me as I had ear plugs. Everyone should rather then expect total quiet on RAGBRAI.


Michrider !!!, January 30, 2018 at 9:36 am

In past years, I used BIC, Brancel and Bubba, along with PBV (several years). They all provide good, basic service. However, PBV is, in my opinion, the best RAGBRAI charter! Check them out!

BTW, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


Luv 2 Ski, January 30, 2018 at 10:15 am

While I now ride with a team that has it’s own bus I used Brancel in the past and they are excellent. They provide many amenities but do not offer tent service like PBV. Mid week laundry, towel service, and shower trucks most nights to name a few. Pretty much everything that I would want in a charter. I prefer to pick my own tent site and do not have issues with set up so a tent service option is not something that appeals to me. I also like to spend my time and money in the overnight towns so a charter that provides the basics of gear transportation, good campsites, and the things mentioned above are all I need. Brancel fits this bill if that is what you want in a Charter company. Their cost is very reasonable for what you get and they are great people as well.


Mike Howe, January 30, 2018 at 10:24 am

I used PBV last year. It was great. Maybe since it was my first year I was a little too cautious about coming back into camp after most people had gone to their tents. Ill probably use PBV again this year and set my tent up on the edge of camp (if possible). Im not a noisy person to begin with so it shouldnt be an issue. Was just curious about some of the other charters.


Denton Kernodle, January 30, 2018 at 11:45 am

Last year I used Out Of State Charter and really enjoyed it. They were friendly and everything worked out great. They had meeting tents and chairs set up with refreshment at the end of the ride, my bag with my tent was always in the camp ground on time…great experience and I recommend them.


KenH, January 30, 2018 at 1:26 pm

There are no other charters, there is only PBV. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain….

PBV is fine, I mean no offense to them or to those that love them. I’m on their email list and I see a lot to love there. It appears to be a well run operation with a great love for the event and their customers.

But they are not the whole RAGBRAI universe and if the people who use them find it difficult to tear themselves away from their campground they have become a parallel universe unto themselves, an alternate reality RAGBRAI. At least at night, we all come back together on the road each day. If you have used PBV in the past and are happy with them then I cannot think of any reason why you should change.

There are other options you can try if you care to and I suspect any of the charters that have been around for more than a few years are going to do a good job for you. The one year I went with a charter I just picked one of the cheaper ones at random, more or less, and went with them. I went with the Riverbend Club Charter out of Clinton.

We had generally great campsites although one evening we camped on the lawn next to a building in a rather austere commercial/industrial area with some other smaller charters. A couple of nights we were within spitting distance of PBV. They offered an end town to start town shuttle bus and bike transport at the beginning of the week which was fabulous. They did a great job of hauling our baggage during the week. They did a great job of signing the route to the campsite every night. They usually picked a site that was near the route out of town which made leaving every morning painless. They were also careful to pick sites on bus routes and sometimes within walking distance of downtown. They were always near showers except for one night and then they used one of their vehicles to shuttle us to and from the shower location.

They scoped out the church dinners and other food offerings in advance every night and collected feedback from us to weed out the occasional lemon or highlight the gems. They gave us weather briefings and had maps of the next overnight town ready before we took off. They covered our bags with plastic if rain was expected. They had a generator for charging stuff, coolers of soda, EZUps to provide shade in the common gathering area and plenty of chairs.

I think there were about 30 of us in the group, no more than 40. So it was fairly easy to make friends you would see consistently all week. I really enjoyed the rhythm of life that I had to develop to set up, arrange, and tear down my own tent efficiently every day. If you are not the sort of person who finds that work you enjoy is not work at all then why on Earth would you ride a bicycle across Iowa every year? Clearly many here disagree but I found the campsite chores to be that kind of work and if I eat like I know I am going to eat during the day’s ride I will have plenty of energy left to do those chores.

Going to town every night to forage for food and experience whatever there is to experience there is an essential part of RAGBRAI for me. The pile of bags you had to dig through each evening was small. The tent city was easy to navigate. The atmosphere was family friendly. The people, staff and fellow customers, were great. It was just an idyllic experience for me that I long to have again.

That was my experience with a smaller, cheaper, lesser known RAGBRAI charter. It didn’t hurt a bit!!


Geoff Butland, January 31, 2018 at 10:45 am

Another thumbs up for O.O.S. charter. The crowd was friendly enough, the crew was amazing. Felt like a bargain. I went into town almost every night, returning pretty late on occasion. Setting up near the camp boundary reduced the likelihood of tripping on tent lines and the need for lights. One advantage of PBV was that they always had shower trucks. “Gang showering” in cold water at the local high school was NOT a high point of my experience on RAGBRAI, but certainly not a knock on O.O.S..


Michrider !!!, January 31, 2018 at 5:55 pm

PBV shower trucks are awesome. They never run out of hot water! Showers are no charge for Porkers (PBV riders) and a small fee for everyone else!
Check out Pork Belly Ventures.

BTW, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


JLVanPelt, January 31, 2018 at 6:28 pm

I am in search of the holy grail of Charters. The list: Coffee ready at 5:15am in the morning, a large tent that gets set up for me (the irony is we have a large tent and would happily pay for someone else to set it up and have my bags in it and tear it down each morning; we’re willing to sign a hold them harmless for the tent), a hot shower with no more than a 30-45 minute wait, a beer while I wait (willing to pay for it) is nice but not required, air pumps, charging station that can be left charging during the day (husband cpap/our spare chargers that we plug our accessories in to at night) with a population which isn’t so large we have to camp 5 miles from town to get a big enough thumbprint. The midweek laundry service is a luxury. Meals and entertainment in camp are not a plus for us. We want to experience everything that the town has to offer. I have experienced pieces of my wish list with various charters but not the entire deal. Yes, the above mentioned charter has much of this–the hot showers rock, the app is terrific, the staff on point with their game plan, the coffee is ready and plentiful, there’s always a beer for the shower line and having bags inside a tent that you just walk away from the next morning is truly magical. What I don’t enjoy is crawling out of a small tent on to the wet grass and walking a half mile (not an exaggeration) from tent city for a 2am KYBO run and then trying to find your tent while half asleep among 300 other tents which look exactly the same or an extra 3-5 miles at the end of a long day trying to find your camp. I realize that I’m looking for unicorns in a world that offers some pretty nice quarter horses. If anyone knows of a charter that fulfills my dreams, let me know!


Bob Kidd, January 31, 2018 at 6:56 pm

First RAGBRAI last year and used Brancel. Planning on using them again this year.


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